WGCOMED Activities 1998-2008

Between 1998 and 2000, the working group embarked on consultations with education policy-makers and managers, and undertook regional and sub-regional needs assessment and training workshops. This activity reached about 250 journalists and ministry communication officers in 30 African countries. Between 2001 and 2005, the working group focused on national-level training workshops, using a 6-module curriculum validated by a network of trainers in 2001. Media coverage of more than 15 major education events in 2003-2005 helped to enhance the capacity of more than 120 African media practitioners and journalists to understand and report on varied issues in education, and to strengthen their commitment to specializing in education reporting and to reinforce networks of communicators for education. The 2006-2008 medium-term plan emphasized the strategic communication needs of education ministries especially in support of their responsibility for managing programs and for piloting education reforms. WGCOMED is working with leaders of education ministries to demonstrate the value of investing in strategic communication, and intends to support them through capacity building and reinforcement of ministerial communication units and establishment of relevant norms and tools.

The institutional ‘shape’ of COMED and its medium to long term orientation will be further clarified based on the results of the recently implemented independent evaluation that was funded from the Education Project Development Fund, EPDF. Overall, this evaluation has been positive, and will now help the COMED Secretariat with material for advocacy and resource mobilization sufficiently to be commensurate with the work of ADEA in general. This 2007 external evaluation and discussions held at an Extra-Ordinary Steering Committee meeting stressed the importance of “revitalizing” the WG’s Steering Committee. To this end, the WG Secretariat was tasked to develop (in 2007) and implement (continuously) an internal communication strategy.

The medium term strategic plan for 2008 – 2012 is designed to develop mechanisms for obtaining maximal synergy effect with the strategic objectives of ADEA, and its targets and it adequately reflects key international agreements and initiatives including the MDGs and specifically the broader EFA agenda. It focuses on the changes in vision, policies, strategies, perceptions, understanding, capabilities, attitudes, practices, and relations among the education players in Africa, and enables the working group to clarify its direction in the context of the changing policy environment in the coming four years.

In 2008, despite limited finances , WG COMED embarked on a series of activities that produced positive results that included extensive quality media coverage. The following can be noted:

  1. The African Education Journalism Award was very well executed, with COMED playing a key role at all stages of the Award procedures. These included participating in the selection of the best published articles and prize winners in Tunis, and organizing and participating in press conferences in Tunis and Cotonou, presiding over the Award ceremony during the ADEA Biennale in Maputo, Mozambique, announcing the winners and awarding the prizes. COMED also supported the ADEA Secretariat in organizing a very successful study tour for the laureates and their editors in Maputo and Johannesburg.
  2. COMED also organised a roundtable discussion for African ministers of education and education journalists during the ADEA Biennale in Maputo. This provided for the first time a forum where two sitting ministers of education from South Africa and Congo-Brazzaville and one former education minister from Mali exchanged extensively with African journalists from different regions on the the issue of using communication to ensure dialogue on education for development at the national and regional levels.
  3. COMED has put in place a core working group that has now completed the first phase of developing an innovative and comprehensive tool kit for the training of journalists and communication experts on the African continent. Work on the further development of the tool kit continued in Windhoek, Namibia in March 2009. A completed dummy kit will be ready for trial-testing in Kenya and Liberia during the second half of 2009. The kit will serve as a training tool for communication officers of ministries of education, journalists reporting on education, as well as members of civil society organizations who will be engaged in policy debates and dialogue on educational issues at national, sub-regional and regional levels.

Finally, the ADEA Biennale held in Maputo, Mozambiue in May 2008 gave a lot of exposure to COMED, and provided an opportunity for the Coordinator and the Working Group Leader to meet and hold talks with current and potential partners. These included representatives from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, bi-lateral donor agencies, the Fast Track Initiative Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation among many others. In 2008, COMED was invited and participated with members of its network of journalists in several key education and media events in Africa. These include the Africa Commission meeting on Educational Challenges organized by the Government of Denmark and held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in June 2008, the Highway Africa meeting organized by the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, and held in Grahamstown, South Africa in September 2008, the High level Forum on Media and Development organized jointly by the European Union and African Union and held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso also in September 2008. COMED staff and members of its network of journalists have also participated in the CONFINENTEA VI Preparatory Conference for Africa organized by the Working Group on Non-Formal Education and UNESCO and held in Nairobi in November 2008, and the EFA High Level Group meeting in Oslo, Norway in December 2008. COMED has also recently initiated the process of facilitating in the development of a communication strategy for the implementation of the African Union Commission’s Second Decade of Education in Africa and participated in two planning meetings in Addis Abeba on this subject. COMED is working with the African Union Commission in the second half of 2009 to finalize this communication strategy.